Chateau Mouton-Rothschild should be demoted to Second Growth, with Leoville-Las-Cases taking its place in the first division, a Cornell University study argues.
In 'An Analysis of Bordeaux Wine Ratings 1970-2005', the New York State university's School of Hotel Administration calls for revision of the 1855 Bordeaux classification.
'It is widely accepted today that in any given year there are châteaux that do not produce at the level of their ranking,' the report observes.
The study would change the categories of more than half the 61 classified estates. Inclusion of top Pomerol and St. Emilion properties 'would broaden the usefulness of an updated classification,' it said.
In 1855, the five-tier classification was based on wines' reputations and market prices. Cornell's recommendations are based on an analysis of common ratings of 1970-2005 wines by critics Robert Parker and Steven Tanzer and by Wine Spectator.
This approach limited the researchers' database to 399 wines from 44 of the 61 châteaux. Seventeen estates – including Haut-Brion and Margaux – were omitted because common ratings could not be obtained.
In Cornell's imagined 2008 classification, Leoville-Las-Cases would move to First Growth from Second; Palmer and Calon-Segur go to Second from Third; Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet move to Second from Fifth; Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Clerc-Milon and d'Armailhac move to Third from Fifth; Branaire-Ducru shifts to Third from Fourth; Haut-Batailley and Batailley go to Fourth from Fifth.
Although 'a major shakeup of the 1855 Classification is unlikely to occur, in reality the market is already considering these changes, as indicated by the relative prices of wine from the various châteaux,' the report says.
As evidence for this conclusion it cites Leoville-Las-Cases 'which sells at over three times the average price of the other 1855 second growths'.
Given its rating in the data set, Cornell suggests, 'Leoville-Las-Cases must be viewed as a relative bargain.'
Howard G Goldberg
New York, USA